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Berhalter speaks on USMNT roster, Bradley’s chance, Pulisic’s problems

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NEW YORK (AP) U.S. captain Michael Bradley has an immediate chance to show new coach Gregg Berhalter he deserves to be considered for the next World Cup cycle.

The 31-year-old midfielder was the oldest player and among just four veterans selected for a 27-man roster that will attend Berhalter’s first training camp starting Jan. 6.

[ MORE: Berhalter names first USMNT squad ]

“I truly believe that and this is an opportunity for Michael to show his value to the group,” Berhalter said during a conference call Thursday. “So we’re excited to see him and how he works through this training camp and meeting the team and also contributing to what we’re trying to do on the field.”

Bradley has 142 international appearances but like most veterans was dropped after the October 2017 loss at Trinidad and Tobago that ended the Americans’ streak of seven straight World Cup appearances. He returned in October following a one-year absence along with 34-year-old goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

Guzan was omitted so he can train under a new club coach with Atlanta, which opens in February with the CONCACAF Champions League. Berhalter left off 29-year-old forward Jozy Altidore and 28-year-old midfielder Darlington Nagbe, both recovering from injuries. Berhalter said Altidore will come to camp for a day or two to “see the environment.”

The first U.S. coach who played for the Americans in the World Cup, Berhalter was hired Dec. 2 from the Columbus Crew to succeed Dave Sarachan, the interim coach for 13 months. Berhalter’s first matches are exhibitions against Panama on Jan. 27 at Glendale, Arizona, and against Costa Rica on Feb. 2 at San Jose, California. The team’s first competitive match in 20 months is June 18 at St. Paul, Minnesota, where the Americans open the defense of their CONCACAF Gold Cup title.

Sarachan gave debuts to 23 players, with the Americans winning three matches, lost five and tied four. Berhalter chose 12 players with no national team experience for the training camp, and seven others with five appearances or fewer. The group averages 24 years, 230 days and just 10 appearances.

Berhalter’s roster was chosen entirely from MLS, and he intends to add a central midfielder or winger. The only other players picked with more than a dozen appearances were forward Gyasi Zardes (40) and midfielders Kellyn Acosta (23) and Paul Arriola (17).

Players who could make debuts include are goalkeeper Tyler Miller; defenders Justin Glad, Nick Lima, Daniel Lovitz, Mark McKenzie, Keegan Rosenberry and Auston Trusty; midfielders Corey Baird, Russell Canouse and Djordje Mihailovic; and forwards Jeremy Ebobisse and Christian Ramirez.

Berhalter has been in Europe meeting with the foreign-based portion of his player pool, a group not available to the national team until a pair of home exhibitions in March. The 45-year-old Berhalter, a member of the 2002 and ’06 World Cup rosters, said he is “trying to get a sense of the past but also the future, what this group is looking for.”

“I think we can use this opportunity in this training camp to just start the process and set the tone for what this group is going to be like,” he said, emphasizing three points: “building a culture within the team, instilling a style of play and then competing – competing in every single thing we do.”

Among the players he met with in Germany was 20-year-old star midfielder Christian Pulisic, who on Tuesday made first Bundesliga start for Borussia Dortmund since Sept. 29. Since returning in October following a three-week injury layoff, Pulisic has lost playing time to 18-year-old English midfielder Jadon Sancho.

“At the moment it hasn’t been going the best for him, and I think that’s when guys really can show their qualities, just how they endure through times like this,” Berhalter said. “And we talked about that.”

After training at Carson, California, each winter since 2004, the U.S. is moving its January camp 120 miles south to Chula Vista, near San Diego.

The roster:

Goalkeepers: Alex Bono (Toronto), Sean Johnson (New York City), Tyler Miller (LA), Zack Steffen (Columbus)

Defenders: Reggie Cannon (Dallas), Greg Garza (Cincinnati), Justen Glad (Salt Lake), Nick Lima (San Jose), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia), Keegan Rosenberry (Colorado), Auston Trusty (Philadelphia), Walker Zimmerman (LA)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (Colorado), Paul Arriola (D.C.), Corey Baird (Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Toronto), Russell Canouse (D.C.), Marky Delgado (Toronto), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago), Cristian Roldan (Seattle), Wil Trapp (Columbus)

Forwards: Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland), Christian Ramirez (LA), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus).

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Rumored Neymar for Bale swap: Who wins?

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Who would gain more of an advantage from the rumored, sensational Gareth Bale for Neymar swap: Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid?

Both players are currently problems for their clubs, though neither is known as a true rabble-rouser; Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane wants to be done with the newly-minted 30-year-old Bale, while PSG knows Neymar wants to leave and would love to satiate Kylian Mbappe’s appetite to be the man at their club.

[ REPORT: Man Utd, Leicester agree Maguire fee ]

Presumably some money would be headed PSG’s way in addition to Bale, and both clubs would be getting a motivated megawatt star.

Neymar doesn’t turn 28 until February, but the difference in age may be offset by the Brazilian’s track record of injuries.

In fact, his injury status last season combines with an off-field accusation of sexual assault and a red card for confronting a fan to overshadow his production: Neymar’s 23 goals and 13 assists in just over 2300 minutes last season, including five and two in the Champions League (and a goal and an assist against defensively-stout Liverpool).

Bale presents very few personality challenges, and PSG won’t have a problem with his massive wages (especially with Neymar off the books). His numbers have dipped in two of three seasons since his otherworldly 2015-16, but La Liga is a more difficult scoring league than Ligue 1.

Neymar has twice been a Ballon d’Or finalist and, presuming his legal troubles don’t persist, could be a title fight changer in La Liga. Imagine the Neymar, Eden Hazard, and Luka Jovic trying to outgun Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, and Luis Suarez? Insane.

We’d say Real would be winning the straight-up swap, and that it’s pretty unlikely to go down that way. So it depends what PSG does with the relative Financial Fair Play freedom that would come with the money that also arrives from Spain. Is it Idrissa Gana Gueye? Someone else who helps take PSG’s Champions League hopes to the next level?

Manchester United in ‘concrete talks’ with Lille over Pepe

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Manchester United are reportedly in “concrete talks” to agree a fee with Lille for much-tracked playmaker Nicolas Pepe.

The 24-year-old attacking midfielder has been linked with Liverpool and Arsenal amongst others, and Lille has admitted he’ll be leaving the club.

[ REPORT: Man Utd, Leicester agree Maguire fee ]

United’s reported salvo was around $87.5 million. He’d give them a star who could play across from Anthony Martial or as an attacking midfielder under Romelu Lukaku.

Only Kylian Mbappe and Teji Savanier garnered better season-long ratings than Pepe in the 2018-19 Ligue 1 campaign, and Pepe’s 22 goals and 11 assists stand out from the pack. Only Mbappe had more goals and only Savanier more assists.

Pepe has four goals in 11 caps for the Ivory Coast, and made three starts in Les Elephants’ five-match run at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. He’s a fit for the Premier League, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s system. And if the Red Devils can keep him from Liverpool, well, all the better we’re sure.

Report: Manchester United, Leicester agree to monster Maguire fee

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Manchester United and Leicester City have agreed a fee for Harry Maguire, clearing the way for the English center back to join the Old Trafford set.

That fee is a whopping $100 million, according to Bleacher Report’s Dean Jones. That’s about $4 million more than the world record for a defender, set when Liverpool purchased Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton.

[ MORE: USMNT CB to West Ham? ]

Maguire has been a statistical monster for Leicester City, and he passes the eye test, too.

Manchester United has needed to upgrade its stable of center backs for some time, and now the biggest question is who will work best alongside the 6-foot-4 26-year-old.

The former Sheffield United, Wigan Athletic, and Hull City defender is now 20-times capped by England.

The move could have a ripple effect on the Premier League, as the Foxes have been expected to bid for Burnley star James Tarkowski should Maguire leave the King Power Stadium.

Transfer rumor roundup: USMNT’s Long to London, Newcastle linked with pair

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Could USMNT center back Aaron Long be headed to the Premier League?

The 26-year-old could join West Ham United’s stable of center backs, which includes Issa Diop, Fabian Balbuena, and Angelo Ogbonna.

Sky Sports says that the Red Bulls defender has drawn the interest of Lyon and Fiorentina, but been offered to the Irons should they match his $5 million release clause.

Unable to find a place with Portland and Seattle, Long spent a few seasons in the USL before earning a place with RBNY.

Now 11-times capped by the USMNT with two goals, Long could be bringing his talents to London’s Olympic Stadium.

Elsewhere in the Premier League, Newcastle United has the chance to sign oft-injured Danny Welbeck on a free transfer.

The longtime Arsenal striker, weaned at Manchester United, scored five times in 12 matches last season in a return to injury woes following a 43-match season the prior year.

Newcastle is also being linked with a former defender. James Tavernier has gone on to captain Glasgow Rangers, and the 27-year-old would cost around $10 million.

Surely Steven Gerrard would want more for the defender, but prices haven’t met quality for Scottish Premiership players as we’ve seen with Kieran Tierney at Celtic.